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Monday, June 27, 2011

Texas Weather . . . Well, at least it hit 80!

England really does have summer regardless of what you’ve heard. As we write this blog, we are experiencing the most gorgeous days. Yesterday (Sunday) we went for a walk down on the beach where it seemed everyone in South Tyneside was for the afternoon. We took some pictures just to prove it to you. Yes, it is in the upper 70s (possibly hitting that 80 mark) and it is beautiful. Great time to get out amongst the locals and do what they do . . . but neither of us were interested in getting much more than our feet wet being that the North Sea is quite chilly. It’s the first day we haven’t had our heater on.

Dennis continued his teaching yesterday on Christ as the foundation of our faith. His message was on the fact that without or before Christ we are/were ALL under God’s wrath. The wrath of God is never an easy subject to teach on and especially since he does both a children’s sermon as well as the regular sermon. As difficult as it has been for him, this morning’s children sermon was amazing. Using Romans 3:23, he asked each of the children (5 little girls this morning) to make a paper towel into a ball and then throw it as far as they could. Geoff Aydon was the “volunteer” they were attempting to reach with their balls of paper towel. Obviously it was an impossible thing to do which set them up for Dennis’ teaching of how all of us fall short of God’s Glory. Dennis even attempted to try to throw his paper ball to Geoff, but his only went half the distance. When he asked the girls to define sin, one little girl responded, “Being naughty.” "Naughty," such a great English word! He continued his teaching to the adults using Ephesians 2:1-13. He will continue to build his sermons over the next 2-3 weeks on the theme of “preaching the Gospel to ourselves every day.”

As we left the church yesterday evening, our attention was drawn to a line of hand drawn American flags. It’s odd that we didn’t notice them this morning when we walked through the church hall. At closer examination, we discovered that these beautiful works of art were done by the boys of Boys Brigade last Thursday evening. They each drew their own version of the Stars and Stripes and added a sentiment of welcome to us on the back. We were so touched and just had to share a picture with you. We are humbled by their sweet expression to make us feel at home at Westoe Road.

As we mentioned last week, Wes and Suz arrived on Monday afternoon at Newcastle Central. They had enjoyed a whirlwind 24 hour “tour” of London before boarding the train and heading north to us. We’re not sure how you actually see London in a day, but if anyone could do it, it would be those two. As soon as they came through the stiles at the train station, we were off and running. A quick walk down to the River Tyne in Newcastle, then back on the Metro train to South Shields. After a short train ride to South Shields, we dropped their luggage at the house and headed to the cliffs for a walk and to show off God’s amazing creativity and majesty along the North Sea. Tuesday morning began a fast trip up into Scotland to see Edinburgh (raining all the way), then heading south along the coast on Wednesday morning with stops at Holy Island where there are ruins of a monastery which was the seat of evangelizing the British Isles during the 7th century. From Holy Island we continued down the coast to Bamburgh Castle. We’ve posted some additional pictures on Facebook. On Thursday we headed out into the countryside west of Newcastle to see Hadrian’s Wall which was begun by the Emperor Hadrian in 122 A.D. Since Suz teaches Roman history to 6th graders, this was a real treat for her to walk among the ruins of a 3rd century Roman fort and to stand and look out on this massive 1700 year old undertaking. The wall stretches across the English countryside from the east coast to the west coast, a length of 73 miles. Not wanting Wes and Suz to miss anything, we made the decision to travel some “single-track” roads. You must understand that most single-track roads are just a little wider than one car. Our experience in Oxfordshire last year was that every half mile or so there would be a place to pull over to allow for vehicles to pass. Well . . . that was not the case on the road we chose. Our road became more and more narrow. At the most narrow point we had 4 foot rock walls on both sides. It was at about that time that we looked up the hill ahead of us only to discover a DHL delivery van coming down the hill toward us with a car following it. Wes was in the front seat with Dennis when we saw the whites of their eyes. It was obvious that the driver of the DHL truck had no intention of backing up, so, being the nice (and quite intimidated) Americans that we are, we began to back down the hill. Dennis showed great backing skills in a standard shift car. Oh, and did we mention that we were being followed by an SUV and he had to put it in reverse and begin backing down the hill as well. Oh, and did we mention that it was raining! What an experience! While Wes, Suz and Brenda had a bit of a chuckle, Dennis’ nerves were quite shot and we quickly located a place to pull off and have lunch. We ended Thursday evening at the New Crown Pub with 6 of our friends from WRBC. It was a great evening of fellowship and Wes and Suz got to enjoy their wonderfully warm English hospitality. We put them on the train at Newcastle Central Friday morning and they are now safely back in Colorado, but it was a great week and we are hoping that they as well as Lane and Hannah will get to come see us before we head home in January.

We continue to find the English people very open and interested in why we are here. We had a bit of a rail delay trying to get Wes and Suz to Newcastle and were greatly helped by several ladies who were attempting to get to work in Newcastle that morning. They asked about our being in the area and we had the opportunity to tell them what we were doing. On the way back to South Shields from Newcastle we again had a little issue with the train service and ended up having a wonderful time visiting with a man from Boston who lives and works in Newcastle. He asked several times about the name of the church and we are hoping to see him walk through the door someday with his family.

Our ministry will get down to business this week as we begin truly pastoring this church. WRBC is like any church with its share of physical and spiritual needs. Jesus On Leadership books and workbooks are on their way from Abilene (Thanks to Granny Liz who tracked them down when LifeWay told her they were out of print!). We will start that study with the deacons as soon as the books arrive. The next big decision will be how to begin in-depth Bible study and to begin to develop a team of teachers. Dennis is praying about how to draw in several men who are on the outskirts of the congregation. There are several very faithful men with hearts to study God’s Word, but there is a need to reach out to younger men. Please pray that the Lord will direct him in a way that will be fitting to their culture. Brenda is finding that both the young and older ladies at eager to get started but we must determine that best time for each of these studies so as not to disrupt the younger families too much. So, we would definitely appreciate your prayers as we want to begin within the next couple of weeks.

So, week 3 ends and we remain so blessed to have received God's call to this beautiful country. The people are so warm and welcoming and the Spirit of God is moving among His people here as He does everywhere. We are so thankful to be a part of what He is doing in South Shields. We encourage those on both side of the Atlantic to "preach the Gospel to yourself every day" for it is life and hope.

Blessings to All!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Busy! Busy! . . . .

As we expected, it has been a very busy week. It would be difficult for us to express just how at home we feel here with the sweet folks of Westoe Road Baptist Church. They have seen to our every need and our only discomfort at this point is DRIVING!!! Before we get into those stories, let’s give a little report of our week.

We are coming to grips with the fact that at 4 a.m. the sun will be shining through our bedroom window. The people here think that it’s funny that we don’t experience such long days in Texas. It is, however, rather inspiring to wake up in the morning and look out our bedroom window to see the sun shining over the North Sea. We find ourselves having sweet hours of time with the Lord and in His Word each morning as we seek His wisdom and guidance in ministry at WRBC.

Brenda started the week off by joining “Sisterhood” at their weekly meeting. Sisterhood could be compared to WMU and was established in the 1920s. They are a dear group of ladies who love the Lord and one another. At this particular meeting they heard a very good lesson from Luke 25 and enjoyed singing a few songs. Brenda was quite impressed by their pianist, Mrs. Nelly Cowly (age 95). She became a deacon at WRBC in 1941 (during the years of WWII) and has served faithfully all these years. We ended Monday with a 3 hour deacons meeting at our house. . . definitely not a negative thing! It was such a blessing to listen to each of the deacons report on their teams (Yes! Team Leadership at its finest!) and how they are striving to bless the Lord by ministering to His people.

“Coffee Pot” was Tuesday morning. Remember from the 1st blog that we questioned the term “Coffee Pot.” Well, it’s true. The Lord has sat us down in a part of England where there seems to be more coffee drinkers than tea drinkers. Hard to believe, but it’s true. Coffee Pot is an outreach to those living in the area, mostly senior adults, who need a place to enjoy time with others. There is a “care” home (retirement/nursing home) a few blocks from the church and from time to time some of the residents come for a cup of coffee (or tea) and to enjoy conversation with the members of the church. We thoroughly enjoyed our time there and will definitely make this a regular weekly event . . . especially to enjoy a piece of Dorothy Binns’ coffee cake (Brenda plans to ask for that recipe). We left Coffee Pot and drove to the train station to make a test run to Newcastle. Wes and Suz arrive today (Monday) and we needed to make sure where to meet them when their train arrives from London.

We caught the Metro here in South Shields and made the 25 minute ride into Newcastle Central. The trains are quite efficient and make it possible for us to leave the car in a car park (parking lot) and not have to drive . . . which is a good thing!
Newcastle is a beautiful, cosmopolitan city that is situated on the north bank of the River Tyne and has a rich history of shipping and coal mining as do all the cities along the Tyne in this area. We took time to take a walk along the river.

Tuesday ended with Brenda joining the “50-Somethings” for their monthly outing to a local pub for dinner and a pudding (dessert). You should be impressed by the size of that dessert. She’s still recovering. These ladies have been together a long time and many have been at WRBC their entire lives. They are as much fun as they look and no doubt there will be many more evenings such as this one. While Brenda was out with the girls, Dennis went to dinner with Geoff Aydon who is married to Liz (front right). We're not sure who had the most fun, but all enjoyed a great evening of fellowship. There will be more pictures of all of these folks in the weeks to come as we want you to get to know all of them.

Wednesday began with Brenda enjoying some time at “Knit and Natter.” “Knit” – knit/ “Natter” – chatter. It lived up to its name. These 12-15 ladies work on ministry projects and were able to show some beautiful knitted blankets that they lovely knit for the residents of the care home mentioned previously. Right now they are working on replacement covers for some of the chair cushions at the church. These sweet ones are a beautiful reminder of Proverbs 31 as they work with their hands to provide for the needs of others. Not knowing how to knit, Brenda will be purchasing some knitting needles this week and learning to knit in the very near future. Wednesday ended with a big Texas “Yee-Haw” as we turned the church Hall into a Line dancing studio. With our boots on, we scooted a boot around the Hall to songs like “Achy-Breaky Heart” and “Cotton-Eyed Joe.” Line Dancing began last October at WRBC when a team of Texans from Oakridge Baptist Church in Conroe came for a week. Such fun!

On Thursday we were invited to meet the Head Teacher (Principal) and Deputy Teacher (Vice-Principal) at Westoe Crown Primary School. It quickly became evident to us as we were escorted through the halls of this beautiful new school, that this was truly a place of excellent education. These two administrators were very warm and welcoming as we ended our visit by sitting in their office for almost an hour and talking about their love for the children at Westoe Crown. We have been invited to speak or do an assembly for the school in a few weeks and we are very excited about that. When we stopped in at Whizz Kids later in the day and at Boys Brigade and Anchor Boys that evening, several of the children smiled and told us that they had seen us at school. We are thrilled to have this connection in the community.

Brenda got her “baby-fix” on Friday morning at Baby Vine which is the newest ministry at WRBC. Much like the Ducklington Toddler Group we told you about last year, Baby Vine is a place for a Mum and her little one to enjoy some time together with others. Brenda thoroughly enjoyed playing with these little ones and is thinking she’d like to have one of her own some day (hint, hint, Colorado kids).

Saturday was a day off, so we decided to drive the Ring Road (loop) around Newcastle so that we will know how to drive to Scotland tomorrow with Wes & Suz. Oh, my goodness! After 2 hours we had gone 53 miles and finally pulled up in front of our house on Bamburgh Ave. It was almost a moment to kiss the ground! We have been given a Sat-Nav, but it quickly became obvious that she (sweet little lady with a beautiful English accent) had no more idea of where we were than we did! Praise the Lord! We survived and have now found an alternate route. Yes, THAT IS A PRAYER CONCERN FOR THIS WEEK! We will be heading to Scotland tomorrow with the kids and will welcome driving the countryside with no traffic and no round-a-bouts. . . well, there probably will be a few round-a-bouts unfortunately.

Realizing that this has not been a very “spiritual” blog entry, we continue to appreciate your prayers as the Lord establishes us in this culture and in ministry at WRBC. Needless to say, the ministry here is going to be very hands on and relational. Dennis’ message yesterday (which included communion) was very Gospel focused. He used the theme of “preaching the Gospel to ourselves daily” and will continue to build on that foundation for the next few Sundays.

We’re sorry we can’t send some of our cool temperatures to you.

Loving you all!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Off and Running . . .

We’ve been in South Shields for 5 days now and have met more people than we can remember. We are definitely going to like it here!

We arrived right on time Wednesday afternoon making all our connections without much time to spare anywhere. Our luggage enjoyed Logan National Airport in Boston so much that it decided to spend the night there, but fortunately we had packed a change of clothes in our carry-ons. We were met at the airport by two very excited and bubbly ladies, Angela Pino (the Church Secretary and deacon) and her daughter Julie Price (also a deacon). They delivered us to our lovely home, a “semi-detached” house, known to us in the U.S. as a duplex. It is quite charming and very comfortable. It is obvious that the team of ladies who worked at setting up our home have a flare for design and color because it is truly beautiful. Geoff Aydon, who is a very committed servant in the church, spent several hours cleaning up, preparing, and planting flowers in the front and back gardens. The addition of a patio table and 4 chairs makes it feel like home for sure.

We spent Wednesday afternoon exploring our neighborhood on foot. If we walk between the houses across the street, then across the Coast Road, we find ourselves on The Leys that lay on top of the cliffs overlooking the North Sea. The sun was shining and the temperatures were in the high 50s which made for a great time of walking along the cliffs. The days are very long here and it doesn’t get dark until midnight, so we had several hours to enjoy these new and very different surroundings.

The next morning (Thursday) Liz Aydon (wife of Geoff and also a deacon) arrived to take us to the church. Whizz Kids was in full swing and we were able to meet the lovely ladies who make this a wonderful program Monday thru Friday for 2-4 year olds. While at the church Angela, who is the director of Whizz Kids, showed us around Westoe Road Baptist Church. The word “beautiful” does not do this building justice. It was built in 1881 (the same year Hardin-Simmons began) and finds its roots back in the 17th century when dissenting groups separated from the Church of England. The church was actually established in 1818. We’ve never seen architecture quite like this with a balcony that circles the entire sanctuary. We are told that the sanctuary seats over 600 and in the past has been full. We pray to see that again . . . before January 2012 if the Lord should will it. The pipe organ is original to the building but is seldom used these days. However, we attended a wedding on Saturday afternoon and it still sounds beautiful. The wedding was beautiful, by the way.

Today, our first Sunday, has been an incredible blessing. We were graciously allowed to be observers today. The service was what is known as Church Parade. We were not quite sure what that meant, but it became clear as we witnessed the entrance of the British flag carried by some dashing young men between the ages of 5-11 along with the young ladies of the Brownies carrying their organization flag. These children are all a part of clubs that meet weekly at the church. The Anchor Boys (ages 5-8) and the Boys Brigade (ages 9-11) along with the Brownies (girls ages 7-14) all meet at WRBC each week and so the Church Parade spotlights these weekly ministries as an outreach to the families of the children and the surrounding community. As part of the service today we were each given a few minutes to introduce ourselves and express our joy at being called to serve this body of believers. After the service we all enjoyed lunch together which makes them officially Baptist, right?

This evening’s service was our time to tell about ourselves and our journey with the Lord as He has brought us to this beautiful place. We are so humbled by the Lord’s goodness as we already feel a sense of belonging here. Our coming week will be a busy one as we will participate in their church activities. There is ministry going on every day at Westoe Road with Whizz Kids as well as a variety of other opportunities to meet with the church family for both social times and activities that focus on spiritual growth.

Westoe Road Baptist Church has a high level of energy. Their leadership is enthusiastic and committed to the teaching of God’s Word. They have a deep desire to reach their surrounding community with the Gospel of Christ and are willing to step out of their comfort zone in order to do that. They are definitely a church with a vision and there is great confidence in and a sweet spirit of cooperation within their leaders. It did not take us long to realize that the WRBC family deeply loves one another and they long for their church to be the Light of Christ in this city.

We treasure your prayers as we begin to realize what God has called us to here in South Shields. We would covet your prayers for:

• Deepening relationships with our church family at Westoe Road
o We will be experiencing a night of Texas Line Dancing in the church hall on Wednesday evening. Imagine coming to England to brush up on our Line Dancing Skills 
o Brenda will also have the opportunity this week to meet with the “50-Somethings” for a night out at one of the local pubs
• Opportunities to build relationships with our neighbors, Cliff and Margaret, to the south and Eleanor to the north who shares our duplex
• Clear understanding of what ministries we are to involve ourselves in and how God might use our gifts in those ministries
• Dennis as he ministers to the men of the church and how to draw more men to participate
• Dennis as he prepares each week to present God’s Word
• Brenda as she seeks to know how to minister among the women. There are 3 venues of ministry for women:
o Modern Girl Bible Study – a monthly meeting of the young women of the church for Bible study specific to their generation
o Sisterhood – ladies over 50 meets weekly for Bible Reading and to hear speakers on various topics and missionary work (similar to WMU)
o Knit and Natter – ladies over 50 who focus on fund raising projects using their needle crafts. They have coordinated and promoted the Samaritan’s Purse Operation Christmas Child. (Brenda’s on her way to the yarn shop tomorrow!)

We have definitely had some moments of missing everyone back home, especially on Thursday evening when our Skype connection would not work with Brenda’s mother. We know without a doubt that God’s has directed this moment in time for us to be in this place and while we may miss everyone back home, it’s so good to know that our God is so big that He can be both places and through the power of His Holy Spirit connect our hearts and minds. His work goes on regardless of which side of the ocean we are serving on.

We pray many blessings for all as you do the Lord’s work.

Cheers!